by Philip Brasher, CQ Roll Call Staff
Talk by House Republican leaders of extending farm programs for one year in lieu of passing a new farm bill is drawing mixed reactions in the Senate.
Montana Democrat Max Baucus, who has introduced a bill to revive several expired disaster programs, is open to the idea so long as it is paired with a package of disaster aid. If the House can’t pass a farm bill, “addressing drought is better than nothing. An extension might be the best way,” said Baucus.
Pat Roberts of Kansas, the ranking Republican on Senate Agriculture, said it was too early for him to commit to supporting an extension. “But I’m perfectly willing to be meeting, as we probably will be here in the next few days, to see if we can come up with something,” he said.
Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., continues to reject the idea of an extension, saying “our farmers need certainty.” Pressed as to whether she would even consider it, she said, “At this point we are focused on passing the farm bill.”
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., thinks it would be difficult to get Congress to pass an extension that continued the $5 billion in annual direct payments that would be eliminated by both by the Senate-passed bill (S 3240) and the committee-passed House version. (HR 6083) Conservatives would be outraged if the payments go on for another year, he said. “The opposition would be fierce.”